Having had the pleasure of trying out the Halo 5 beta this weekend, I’m pleased to say that I still think the way Halo 5 is taking the series is DEFINITELY the way to go.
Below, you will find my personal assessment of some of the major and not-so-major changes to the Halo formula found within Halo 5.
Jeff Steitzer is back. He is amazing. There has been pockets of frustration with the famous multiplayer announcer’s involvement with Halo 5, namely the manner in which he’s speaking and the regularity of hearing his voice in a match. I disagree with these completely.
I like to think of the Halo announcer in the same way a football or eSports commentator would operate. Person does something cool, they get a cool guy shouting something at them. They have added some new medals and new announcements to go with medals, like Top Gun and Perfect Kill, but I feel these medals deserve announcements. Plain and simple as that. You do lots of awesome things, you get lots of praise. As for how he pronounces things, I’d simply say he’s putting a little more emotion and emphasis into announcements, which for me just makes things seem even more dramatic and engaging. Nothing wrong with that in my mind.
With the removal of personal loadouts and Armour Abilities, I feel most balance issues are settled. Everyone spawns with the same weapons and abilities, therefore it’s all down to skill. If I have an AR and you have an AR and you kill me, you either got lucky or you are the better player. If I ground-pound you, I used tactics to put myself in an advantageous position, or I got lucky. Power weapons are accessible for both teams, and placed on-map with navigation tools to help locate them.
Most weapons I’ve used feel and behave very similarly to how they have in previous games. The AR and SMG are the two exceptions but I feel they’re balanced still. Smart-link causes SMG’s and AR’s to be more accurate when zoomed, but prevents abuse of this new range by adding descope, so if I’m sniping you halfway across with map with an AR, stick me with a round or two and continue suppressing to render me completely helpless.
Smart-Link is NOT ADS like you know from other modern FPS games. It’s Halo’s classic zoom, mapped onto a more accessible and on-the-fly button, with visual elements to make it more immersive and aesthetically believable. Virtually every weapon behaves as it did with classic zoom, aside from the above two. It LOOKS like CoD ADS, it FEELS like Halo. Gameplay flow and momentum feel is largely increased by this.
Stabilizer is a handy tool that allows players to maintain weapon accuracy whilst in mid-air. Advantage: it means you can kill people easier whilst in mid-air. Trade-off: you’re a sitting duck and need to act fast to kill your target. You’re still in motion while they’re not, technically they should be able to kill you faster, so you need to get the jump on them. This is balanced, I’d say.
Ground Pound is half novelty, half utility. Right-place, right time, it’s a very satisfying and quick way to kill unsuspecting foes. Wrong place, wrong time, you’ve made a terrible mistake and most certainly will die.
Spartan Charge is very similar in utility to Ground Pound, except you will rarely kill people with it, the advantage granted is getting the jump on people. Again, use it poorly, you will certainly be killed.
Clamber – it’s a relatively standard thing in FPS games now, makes sense in terms of the direction they’re taking with immersion and gameplay flow, but there is a slight feeling that it’s not quite like Halo. That said, you don’t HAVE to use it. It’s a handy tool and I don’t see much issue with it.
Sprint. My feelings on this are very simple. I think sprint is a standard element in FPS games, much like Clamber. I do, however, feel that in Halo 4/Reach, it wasn’t perfected, and it was simply used as a get-out-of-jail-free card to run away from losing gun battles. 4 improved it with flinch, but Halo 5 sorts the balance issues beautifully by prevent shield recharge until you stop sprinting. Run away from a battle? You’ll likely be killed by another foe before you get to a safe distance. Stay and fight? You have a chance to outwit your opponent, and survive. It’s not used much for escaping battles now, but it still exists to allow people to cross the map without what I would consider tedious periods of silence I would sometimes encounter in Sprint-less Halo games.
Returning to On-Map Weapons & Ordnance Removal
Doesn’t need a paragraph. This is a great move, solves most weapon balance issues and returns to a classic Halo feel.
As is quite evident above, I’d say that my experience with Halo 5’s changes to the formula are all either neutral or positive. Halo 4 had issues, they’ve learned and are returning to a classic Halo Arena multiplayer, whilst innovating enough to keep it fresh.
I have a simple view on innovation in Halo. If Halo doesn’t change, people will complain about the lack of change. If Halo does change, people will find fault with the changes. It’s a very difficult line to walk and I feel Halo 5 has a very solid and careful balance of innovation and formula preservation. It still feels like Halo, it’s extremely fun, and that’s all that matters to me.
We can’t have a Halo 3 re-release in Halo 5, and I’m glad we can’t. Halo NEEDS to make changes like smart-link and sprint to stay relevant. Halo is a product 343i need to sell, and if they focus on 99% fan service and 1% sales, it’s just not going to happen. Halo HAS to stay relevant, but it also has to feel like Halo. I genuinely believe they’ve struck a strong balance of the two.
With that said, there are bound to be things that need to change. For example, I think that there could be more customisation, and better standard weapon placement indicators, but that is what the full beta is for. Get in on the Halo 5 action on December 29th, and post plenty of solid feedback. This is NOT a simple server/functionality test, this is 343i giving us a voice. Use it!
See you on the battlefield, Spartans.